Imagine you’ve taken medical leave from work to have a baby, or because you were seriously injured in a car accident. While on leave, you receive notice from your employer that you’ve been fired. Is this legal? The answer is, it depends on your employer’s reason. Below we’ll explain when it’s legal and when it isn’t, as well as when a wrongful termination lawyer can help.
Are There Laws That Protect Me From Wrongful Termination While On Leave?
There are several laws and regulations that protect workers from being wrongfully terminated for taking medical leave.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), covered employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to their own medical treatment, the treatment of their child, or of someone in their family. This includes maternity leave and leave for any medical condition that prevents you from doing your job. If you take FMLA leave, your job is protected during this time so you can return to your position after your leave concludes. Additionally, during your leave, you will continue to receive the same group health insurance coverage that you had prior to taking leave.
Keep in mind that to receive FMLA coverage, you must qualify by working for a company with at least 50 employees for at least one year. You must also have worked 1,250 hours during the previous year and give your employer 30 days’ notice prior to taking leave (if possible).
In addition to FMLA protections, if you need to take medical leave because of a mental or physical disability, you may also be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, an employer must grant a disabled employee reasonable accommodations for their condition when possible, which can include medical leave. An employer cannot fire you for taking leave because of your disability; if they do, it could be considered disability discrimination as well as wrongful termination.
So…When Can I Be Legally Terminated While On Leave?
It is never legal for your employer to retaliate against you, discipline you, or fire you because you have taken FMLA or ADA leave. But here’s the catch: in California, just like in most states, your employer can fire you as long as they have a legal reason for it. This remains true even while you are on medical leave. Although it isn’t legal for your employer to fire you because you have taken time off due to a medical reason or disability, it can be perfectly legal for them to fire you for a different legal reason while you are on leave.
For example, if the company you work for is facing financial troubles and has to lay off workers because of it, you can be legally fired while on medical leave. Likewise, if your employer had good reason to fire you before you went on leave—for a lack of productivity or low-quality work, for example—you can be fired during medical leave without it qualifying as discrimination.
In addition, if you commit an offense that could justify your firing while on leave, such as stealing from your company or sexual harassing a co-worker, you can still be fired.
What To Do If You Think You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated or otherwise discriminated against for taking leave, it is in your best interest to speak to a wrongful termination attorney. By seeking legal help, you may be able to resume working at your previous employer, be compensated for lost wages, and potentially recover damages for mental or emotional suffering you endured due to your termination.
If you think you have been wrongfully terminated while on medical leave, contact Odell Law for a free consultation at (949) 833-7105.
Please note that this article if for informational purposes only and not meant to constitute legal advise or establish an attorney-client relationship. This article is also meant as an attorney advertisement and not intended for anyone under the age of 13. Any questions regarding its content can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.